How Orange is the New Black Feeds The Groundswell

orange is the new black

“Orange is the New Black,” by Piper Kerman.

Released on July 11, 2013, the Netflix original series “Orange is the New Black” (OITNB) is based on the true story of Piper Kerman (Piper Chapman in the show), a women who “flew to Belgium with a suitcase of money intended for a West African drug lord” during her twenties and must later pay for it by spending a year in a minimum security women’s prison.

Personally, I did not discover the series on Netflix until August 2013, but when I did, I immediately found it addictive and joined the online discussion surrounding the show on Facebook and on Twitter by sharing my pleasure with my circle of loyal followers.

Although the show had already been in circulation for about a month, I found that the online community was still very lively in its excitement over the first season and speculations about what may happen in a second season. I will openly admit that, after watching the season finale, I was hungry for a release date myself and started searching for, and listening for an official announcement in the news, on fan message boards, and on social media by following the show’s social media accounts.

This type of behavior is actually more common than you may think. According to Pew Research, 8 percent of U.S. adults get news through Twitter, and about 30 percent of Americans get news on Facebook.

The Internet proved that I wasn’t the only viewer seeking this information. During the weekly/monthly #OITNB Twitter Chats with the cast of the show, participants would ask for more character background information, offer suggestions on how the story should develop in season two (even without any confirmation), and, of course, demand a release date for their overflowing devotion.

The show’s social media manager continued to feed hungry viewers with sharable content (predominantly images) on Facebook in the form of infographics, still-shots from the show with memorable quotes, video interviews, and sneak peek / teasers hinting that there would be a season two even before Netflix finally confirmed the June 6 release date in February 2014, according to the YouTube teaser released via the official Netflix YouTube channel.

Since its release on February 15, 2014, the teaser has received more than 85,000 Likes on Facebook, 71,000 shares, 10,000 comments, and 4 million views on YouTube. The Twitter announcement, which mimics the Facebook message of “It’s about time. #OITNB,” has received more than 2,000 retweets and 1,000 favorites on Twitter.

orange is the new blackToday, the official Orange is the New Black Facebook Fan Page has about 1.8 million likes, and more than 705,000 people are actively discussing and/or mentioning the show on Facebook. The Twitter page has more than 343,000 followers and is constantly pumping out Twitter Cards, articles, photos, and Vine videos supporting the June 6 release and #OITNB hashtag.

This is a case of Netflix using a positive experience to not only push its social media presence, but to support its investor relations platform that “Internet TV is better than linear TV in ways consumers care about.”

By actively listening to its viewers, the company was able to create engaging content and keep its viewers involved with its characters’ stories even during the 11-month wait between seasons.

One noteworthy aspect of the show would be its emphasis on women’s and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues. While the main characters may be in prison, it provides viewers with insights to their pasts and personal lives to show how their upbringings and life choices lead them to where they are today. One of the most motivating, and in some circles “controversial,” character stories would be that of Sophia Burset, played by Laverne Cox, who recently graced the cover of the June 9, 2014 issue of TIME and self-identified as “a proud, African-American transgender woman.”

An LGBT rights advocate, Cox has received numerous awards for her work as the first transgender black woman to have a leading role on a mainstream US television show. In the June issue, Cox discusses being bullied as a kid, the transgender movement, and the happiness she has found in life. Cox believes that, “People need to be willing to let go of what they think they know about what it means to be a man and what it means to be a woman.”

While Cox’s story is just one in many, this show has the opportunity to serve as a platform for discourse not only for LGBT issues, but for drug abuse, inmate, rape, and women’s issues that can sometimes receive less coverage in mainstream media than “pop news.”

Honestly, I believe that Netflix is doing a much better job of listening to its online audience and strives to provide them with a variety of options when it comes to new or evolving series. Earlier this year, I was on the verge canceling my subscription, but was brought back on board immediately when I saw a fan board reshare the season two announcement.

In my case, Netflix was able to confirm my $8 per month for an addition 6 months, which allowed me to follow its evolution as it established partnerships with cable companies and expanded its library of shows to include other trending titles such as ABC’s Scandal. I can only imagine that I am not the only one who has been waiting patiently and may have changed her mind due to the announcement. From what I hear, there hasn’t been any official announcement about Season 3 of Orange is the New Black, but if Laura Prepon’s Instagram is any clue, we’ll be seeing our girls in orange and beige very soon.

Suggested Reading

  • NPR | Behind ‘The New Black’: The Real Piper’s Prison Story.

Image via Soapbox Inc

Yasheaka Oakley Owens

Yasheaka Oakley Owens is the owner of YOakleyPR, a woman-owned small business that provides public relations, social media, and online marketing support services to small businesses and 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations in Southeastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey and Delaware.

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